Ramona Gault is the author of Artistry in Clay: A Buyer’s Guide to Southwestern Indian Pottery (1991) and the co-author of The Santa Fe & Taos Book: A Complete Guide (1994). After feeling compelled to write a story about a mother-daughter relationship set in New Mexico, it took five years to complete her debut novel The Dry Line (2014). Visit Ramona on LinkedIn and TheDryLine-aNovel.blogspot.
What is your elevator pitch for The Dry Line?
Anna Darby would do anything for her beloved daughter, Paris, except tell her about her soldier father who was killed in Vietnam. But when Paris gets into a scrape with the law and an old friend asks for a big favor, social worker Anna acts impetuously. They move from Albuquerque to a village where Anna meets Cisco, a combat vet who paints ghosts by day and rides the back roads by night. Will he be the love of her life, or the death of her? And can feisty Paris save Tonio, a strange, neglected boy who lives in a cave? The barely suppressed sorrows of the past erupt in a remote desert village, and Anna and Cisco must figure out whether, and how, they can heal.
When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope they enjoy a page-turning romance/thriller, as well as insight into how the Vietnam War affected ordinary New Mexicans.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I hadn’t written fiction since I was a child. I didn’t have a clue how to write a novel, but I really, really wanted to do it. Figuring it out gave me untold satisfaction.
Who are your main characters?
Anna Darby is, in a sense, every single mother. Fiercely protective of her child, struggling to build them a better life, while dealing with family baggage and great loss in her past. Her own vitality and her desire for love empower her. Cisco is the night aspect to her day. He returned from the war with a pack of demons, but at heart, he’s real gold.
Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book? Is the setting a character in the story?
Setting is definitely a major character! New Mexico works mojo on me. It would take me lifetimes to fully explore this land in my fiction.
Tell us how the book came together.
I wanted to write about the mother-daughter relationship and set it in a New Mexico village like those I’d spent time in. So I envisioned this idea, wrote scenes and an outline. Pages later, the characters and the village came to live in my imagination. My experience is that people in New Mexico’s traditional culture are open-hearted; it’s a more people-focused culture. For me it’s much more satisfying to write about those kinds of relationships. It took me five years of writing after work at my day job.
What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
For fiction, The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter and The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield.
Now that you’ve written both fiction and nonfiction, do you have a preference?
Fiction is a joy to write; nonfiction is pure work.
What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
I love writing scenes of all kinds! If I’m having a hard time with a scene, that generally means I need to take a fresh look at what the scene is trying to do.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m 55,000 words into a mystery novel set in a small town in the South where I grew up.
Do you have advice for writers working towards publication?
Get an editor. Get an editor. GET AN EDITOR! I can’t say it enough. Beta readers can be of help, but in the end, they’re not professionals. I was so eager to see my book in print that I rushed things. Don’t make my mistakes! Find an experienced fiction editor and work with that person to revise, revise, revise. I’m still in love with The Dry Line, but for my new mystery-in-progress, I’m hiring a professional fiction editor to do a developmental edit that will find the weaknesses in plot and character, the stupid gotchas, the parts that don’t work. And this editor will help me shape the manuscript into something marketable. It’s not cheap, but if you value yourself, the investment is worth it.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.